AWS Blog

AWS Snowmobile – Move Exabytes of Data to the Cloud in Weeks

by Jeff Barr | on | in AWS re:Invent, AWS Snowmobile, Enterprise | | Comments

Moving large amounts of on-premises data to the cloud as part of a migration effort is still more challenging than it should be! Even with high-end connections, moving petabytes or exabytes of film vaults, financial records, satellite imagery, or scientific data across the Internet can take years or decades.  On the business side, adding new networking or better connectivity to data centers that are scheduled to be decommissioned after a migration is expensive and hard to justify.

Last year we announced the AWS Snowball (see AWS Snowball – Transfer 1 Petabyte Per Week Using Amazon-Owned Storage Appliances for more information) as a step toward addressing large-scale data migrations. With 80 TB of storage, these appliances address the needs of many of our customers, and are in widespread use today.

However, customers with exabyte-scale on-premises storage look at the 80 TB, do the math, and realize that an all-out data migration would still require lots of devices and some headache-inducing logistics.

Introducing AWS Snowmobile
In order to meet the needs of these customers, we are launching Snowmobile today. This secure data truck stores up to 100 PB of data and can help you to move exabytes to AWS in a matter of weeks (you can get more than one if necessary). Designed to meet the needs of our customers in the financial services, media & entertainment, scientific, and other industries, Snowmobile attaches to your network and appears as a local, NFS-mounted volume. You can use your existing backup and archiving tools to fill it up with data destined for Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) or Amazon Glacier.

Physically, Snowmobile is a ruggedized, tamper-resistant shipping container 45 feet long, 9.6 feet high, and 8 feet wide. It is water-resistant, climate-controlled, and can be parked in a covered or uncovered area adjacent to your existing data center. Each Snowmobile consumes about 350 kW of AC power; if you don’t have sufficient capacity on site we can arrange for a generator.

On the security side, Snowmobile incorporates multiple layers of logical and physical protection including chain-of-custody tracking and video surveillance. Your data is encrypted with your AWS Key Management Service (KMS) keys before it is written. Each container includes GPS tracking, with cellular or satellite connectivity back to AWS. We will arrange for a security vehicle escort when the Snowmobile is in transit; we can also arrange for dedicated security guards while your Snowmobile is on-premises.

Each Snowmobile includes a network cable connected to a high-speed switch capable of supporting 1 Tb/second of data transfer spread across multiple 40 Gb/second connections. Assuming that your existing network can transfer data at that rate, you can fill a Snowmobile in about 10 days.

Snowmobile in Action
I don’t happen to have an exabyte-scale data center and I certainly don’t have room next to my house for a 45 foot long container. In order to illustrate the process of arranging for and using a Snowmobile, I sat down at my LEGO table and (in the finest Doc Brown tradition) built a scale model. I hope that you enjoy this brick-based story telling!

Let’s start in your data center. It was built a while ago and is definitely showing its age. The racks are full of disk and tape drives of multiple vintages, each storing precious, mission-critical data. You and your colleagues spend too much time inside of the raised floor, tracking cables and trying to squeeze out just a bit more performance:

Your manager is getting frustrated and does not know what to do next:

Fortunately, one of your colleagues reads this blog every day and she knows just what to do:

A quick phone call to AWS and a meeting is set up:

Everyone gets together at a convenient AWS office to learn more about Snowmobile and to plan the migration:

Everyone gathers around to look at the scale model of the Snowmobile. Even the dog is intrigued, and your manager takes a picture:

A Snowmobile shows up at your data center:

AWS Professional Services helps you to get it connected and you initiate the data transfer:

The Snowmobile heads back to AWS and your data is imported as you specified!

Snowmobile at DigitalGlobe
Our friends at DigitalGlobe are using a Snowmobile to move 100 PB of satellite imagery to AWS. Here’s what Jay Littlepage (former Amazonian and now VP of Infrastructure & Operations at DigitalGlobe) has to say about this effort:

Like many large enterprises, we are in the process of migrating IT operations from our data centers to AWS. Our geospatial big data platform, GBDX, has been based in AWS since inception. But our unmatchable 16-year archive of high-resolution satellite imagery, visualizing 6 billion square kilometers of the Earth’s surface, has been stored within our facilities. We have slowly been migrating our archive to AWS but that process has been slow and inefficient. Our constellation of satellites generate more earth imagery each year (10 PB) than we have been able to migrate by these methods.

We needed a solution that could move our 100 PB archive but could not find one until now with AWS Snowmobile. DigitalGlobe is currently migrating our entire raw imagery archive with one Snowmobile transfer directly into an Amazon Glacier Vault. AWS Snowmobile operators are providing an amazing customized service where they manage the configuration, monitoring, and logistics. Using Snowmobile’s data transfer abilities will get our time-lapse imagery archive to the cloud more quickly, allowing our customers and partners to have access to uniquely massive data sets. By using AWS’ elastic computing platform within GBDX, we will run distributed image analysis, revealing the pace and pattern of world-wide change on an extraordinary scale, with unprecedented speed, in a more cost-effective manner – prioritizing insights over infrastructure. Without Snowmobile, we would not have been able to transfer our extremely large volume of data in such a short time or create new business opportunities for our customers. Snowmobile is truly a game changer!

Things to Know
Here are a couple of final things you should know about Snowmobile:

Data Export – The initial launch is aimed at data import (on-premises to AWS). We do know that some of our customers are interested in data export, with a particular focus on disaster recovery (DR) use cases.

AvailabilitySnowmobile is available in all AWS Regions. As you can see from reading the previous section, this is not a self-serve product. My AWS Sales colleagues are ready to discuss your data import needs with you.

Pricing – I don’t have pricing info to share. However, we intend to make sure that Snowmobile is both faster and less expensive than using a network-based data transfer model.

You can learn more on December 15th with our webinar. Register here.

Jeff;

PS – Check out my Snowmobile Photo Album for some high-res pictures of my creation. Special thanks to Matt Gutierrez (Symbionix) for the final staging and the photo shoot.

PPS – I will build and personally deliver (in exchange for a photo op and a bloggable story) Snowmobile models to the first 5 customers.